Grace to the Humble
James 4:4-6 NKJV
Acts 1:8 NKJV
When I was young I didn’t expect life to be difficult. I didn’t know it at the time but, I didn’t really have any responsibilities…so to speak. I did have to pick up the toys in my room, but I didn’t actually clean it. I didn’t have to put clean sheets on my bed. I did sort of make my bed every morning, but it magically got remade during the day while I was away. I thought angels came and fixed it (haha).
When I was young I thought that answers were clear and concise.
I thought that life would always be easy.
I didn’t think I had to choose between things of this world and things of God. I sort of thought that God created the world and it was His. That’s one reason why I was confused when issues would come up. I’d wonder, “how can this be?”
What really muddied the water was having another Christian oppose and speak ill of me when they didn’t agree with what I believed to be true.
For a while as a thirty something adult it felt like I was always in trouble for things I did and said.
Gradually, I learned that there are differing schools of thought on a variety of issues and ways of thinking.
At the same time, I became acquainted with people from other faith traditions. I intimately got to know people who were Orthodox, Catholic, and people from various Protestant churches. I came to know the differences and what they meant.
Then, in my ‘fifty somethings’ I came to a point where I embraced our differences.
I also came to a point when I stopped trying to tell people what “I” believed and I started quoting chapter and verse from scripture.
I stopped defending my beliefs and I really started looking at the big picture of scripture. But sometimes even that is difficult. One of my ‘take-a-ways’ from Seminary was how much I don’t know. Now, when I read scripture I sort of get a sixth sense when I need to study more and dig deeper.
That actually happens a lot…
In James 4:4-5 he gives a description of where life gets real when he wrote, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
The comment about adulterers and adulteresses really threw me for a loop. That’s when my sixth sense thing comes in. Like, what is James referring to?
So I go big picture. James must be saying people who are not being faithful to God. They want worldly things instead of spiritual things. They covet things of this world.
The next comment says, “do you not know friendship with this world is enmity with God” means the world is in opposition to God.
AND in the last section in James 4:4 the writer goes even further by saying those who are a friend of the world are an enemy of God.
Those are pretty harsh words!
James isn’t pulling any punches. He is actually saying we make a choice. We have to choose to BE in this world or to BE in God in this world. I am reminded at this point that James wrote this letter to the Jews living outside of Jerusalem. They were living in the world. They were living in the Gentile world.
It seems like James is reminding them…pulling them back into the fold. He’s telling them who they ARE and whose they are. He’s trying to help them reclaim their Jewish Heritage even while they live in the Gentile world. James used strong language here and it had to be intentionally done. It’s almost like James ‘got word’ that the new convert Jewish Christians were struggling with their identity. Honestly, why wouldn’t they be struggling? They were raised Hebrew. They became Christians. When times got tough, a lot of 1st Century Christians left Jerusalem and went to other parts of the world (it was called the diaspora).
In Acts 1:8 Jesus predicted it would happen. “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Now they had to deal with living in a strange land with strange customs. They had lost everything they’d been accustomed to…their familiar surroundings, their Jewish traditions, and even James and other church leaders they’d known.
It was sort of like a blown up version of the settlers in the United States who traveled West in covered wagons. They had no idea what they were getting themselves into.
I think that’s why James used strong language with them. He was trying to get their attention.
In James 4:5, he writes, “Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?”
James brought it home. He was telling them they may feel lost and alone, but they were not alone. The Holy Spirit dwelt in them and yearns for them! James was telling them God is closer than they think. God has not dropped them off in a foreign land only to forget them. They are remembered. They matter to God!
Then, in James 4:6 he says, “But he gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
James put himself in their shoes. He stood with them. He became one of them. He understood and was telling them, we are in a strange land. We are weak. We are uncertain about our future.
But the Spirit of the Living God lives IN you. God is strong. God resists the proud BUT when you turn to God and humble yourselves in the loving arms of the Spirit, you will receive grace.
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: Receive Grace
Humble yourself before God and receive His grace. Let the Spirit fill your soul and rest.
In God, Deborah